Role of the Board

There are questions about what the proper role of the Board is in a school district. Some candidates say the proper role of the Board is to pick a good Superintendent and then stay out of the way and let the professionals run things. Others insist the Board can delegate authority to the Superintendent, but the responsibility to ensure that the school operates properly remains with the Board.

From ARS 15-341, “The governing board shall … prescribe and enforce policies and procedures for the governance of the schools, not inconsistent with law or rules prescribed by the state board of education.” Note the use of the word shall; there is nothing optional here. The Board has both the authority and the responsibility to create and enforce policies.

There are a variety of actions a Board could take to enforce a policy, but first they have to know if the policy is being followed effectively. That requires oversight. And oversight requires a more in depth look than just asking the administration for a report. The administration should be challenged on different points related to the policy and asked for proof the policy is being followed. Granted oversight can be abused to the point that it becomes micromanaging, but that’s not the current problem.

Districts go through very effective financial oversight because they are required to be audited. It makes extra work for the staff, and the answers aren’t always perfect, but it’s required by law so it gets done. The auditors don’t settle for a report from the district. They ask questions and pick out specific items and require proof. Why would we demand true oversight of district finances and then settle for poor oversight on policies that can have a more direct impact on teachers and students?

How bad can things get when elected officials don’t do their oversight? How about the Veterans Affairs scandal? Congress had the responsibility to perform oversight, but they chose to accept reports from the professionals and not dig any deeper.

From ARS 15-341, “A governing board may delegate in writing to a superintendent, principal or head teacher the authority to prescribe procedures that are consistent with the governing board’s policies.” Note that the Board “may delegate”, not the Board shall or must delegate. And more importantly, the Board delegates the authority, not the responsibility. The responsibility to ensure that those procedures are consistent with the Board’s policies and that the procedures are being carried out remains with the Board.

The administration holds the staff accountable, the Board holds the administration accountable, and the people hold the Board accountable. That’s the way our system was designed to work. Don’t settle for anything less.

It’s time to decide what kind of Board you want running your schools. The kind where everything is happy because nobody looks too hard? Or the kind where the truth comes out and things get fixed? You have a plenty of Board candidates to choose between this fall. Start asking questions and find out which ones are willing to do the job the way you want it done.

1 comment to Role of the Board

  • Anita Christy

    This is an excellent article. Thanks to Patrick O'Malley for writing it, and thanks to GilbertSchools.Info for publishing it. I'm passing it on to some folks here in Payson. Unfortunately, in a unanimous vote, the continuation of the continuation of the 10% override will be going to the ballot in November.

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